SWANTON — To say the Swanton Public Library’s “art nook” is a success might be an understatement. The Swanton Arts Council has booked the nook through to the middle of summer 2020.
If that only seems so surprising, given Swanton’s burgeoning art community, consider this: Nicole Gadouas, the art nook’s curator, said the gallery’s lineup has now progressed beyond art council members into the ranks of local artists outside the council, artists of whom Gadouas said she wasn’t even aware.
The nook’s latest showcase opened Sunday evening, exhibiting the work of an arts council familiar: Judy Paxman, the council’s director.
Paxman’s distinct art ranges from magnets made of bottle caps, alcohol ink, recycled photos and alcohol to vibrant colored pencil images to a locally notorious backside chair — an upside down human bottom with legs extended for personal support.
That Paxman’s art is so varied and distinct is especially impressive given her self-professed lack of formal training.
“Being a serial volunteer and lacking the ability to say ‘no’ has sucked me into the art world and opened up a whole new realm of creativity and joy,” Paxman wrote in her artist’s statement.
In the same statement, Paxman attributed her characteristic “recycled art,” like the above-mentioned bottlecap magnets, to “being overly frugal.”
“I turned to using recycled materials to practice different techniques without having to spend a fortune on supplies,” Paxman wrote.
She wrote that her seven years on festival committees, nine Missisquoi Valley Union school musicals and “many other community events” taught her “that substitutes for most craft supplies can be found in a recycle bucket.
“Bottle caps, water bottles, paper tubes, plastic bags and anything made of cardboard, paper or fabric are my toys. ... My artist buddies insist that the ‘stuff’ I make is art — and since they are all geniuses it’s hard to not believe them.”
That’s the extent of the statement Paxman wrote about herself. The rest she devoted to highlight Franklin County’s no-longer-so-hidden art scene, specifically in Swanton.
“I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some of Franklin County’s best artists,” Paxman wrote. “I have witnessed artistic genius in directing, acting, sewing, singing, drawing, painting, baking, mixed media, set design, mosaics, jewelry making, writing and more.
“These people are so talented you just want to be around them, hoping some of their skills will rub off.”
The art nook supports that assertion.
Paxman’s opening alone drew dozens. The turnout almost filled half the library’s first floor.
The art nook itself comprises multiple displays to the west of the library’s front desk.
The gallery rotates artists bimonthly.
Gadouas said a similar opportunity for exhibition the Milton Artists Guild offered inspired her.
She said the art nook is a chance for a long-term public gallery that accords with library hours, meaning the gallery doesn’t require the additional resources of people to open and close, and therefore isn’t so subject to volunteer availability.
But Gadouas said it’s also a way to gauge public interest in a separate dedicated gallery space in Swanton.
The art nook opened as a joint effort between the arts council and the public library in August. Mike Barkyoumb was its first featured artist, followed by Marie Speer.
The arts council pays the featured artists, but they also have to help Gadouas set up their display.
It can pay off for artists beyond that. Gadouas said Paxman sold a dozen of her art pieces on opening night alone.
David Winchester is the gallery’s next featured artist. His work goes on display in February.
The Swanton Public Library is open Monday and Tuesday 2-7 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., for those who would like to visit the nook.